CoP deputy banned after improperly transferring £170k of client funds
A solicitor from the Court of Protection has been banned from the profession after misappropriating around £170,00 from the accounts of vulnerable clients.
Following a two-day hearing at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Susan Loise Lowe was found to have acted dishonestly despite trying to blame others for her misconduct.
Between August 2011 and October 2014, Lowe was found to have improperly transferred £170,000 from deputyship accounts. These accounts related to four individuals for whom the Court of Protection had appointed her deputy of.
In addition, Lowe was also alleged to have made an untrue statement to the Solicitors Regulation Authority as well as making a false record of her dealings with client funds.
Practising on her own account, Lowe has been a solicitor for over two decades at her firm Lowe & Co.
Whilst an investigation in 2014 recommended that no further action be taken, an additional inquiry two years later found a shortage of £60,000 on the client account, and a further £222,000 worth of cost taken without any sort of assessment. Under the deputyship, this was required.
Lowe made unauthorised loans following the death of a client, failed to finalise estate accounts as well as telling the nephew of a client that the final account could not be traced. She also misled the Office of the Public Guardian; all of which, she attempted to conceal.
In response, her solicitors told the regulator that Lowe has been grieving for her father in law during the period under scrutiny, stating that all payments could in fact be verified and attributed. However, an intervention into the firm still went ahead in 2017.
When delivering evidence to the SDT, Lowe claimed that the firm’s cashier had undertaken a number of the transactions in question. She also accepted taking costs from one particular estate in advance; this was part of a refurbishment project for which a bill had not been produced. Whilst the funds taken without authorisation had been repaid by Lowe, the regulator stated that this did not render the alleged lack of integrity as unproven.
The SDT reiterated that Lowe had experience in this area of law and was familiar with the rules and procedures. It also said that there was no evidence to indicate that the false memo had been created by anyone other than Lowe, stating that she was likely to have created it to prove the legitimacy of the transaction.
In regard to three allegations, the tribunal found dishonesty proved.
As well as being struck off the roll, Lowe was ordered to pay costs of £15,392.